Living in liberal Los Angeles, I am surrounded by people -- and bumper stickers -- I do not agree with.
One of the more popular liberal bumper stickers of the last decade tells us "Dissent is Patriotic." Now, as it happens, it is impossible to truly disagree with that phrase, not because it is self-evidently true, but because it is self-evidently meaningless. As are most left-wing bumper stickers.
For example, another popular liberal bumper sticker proclaims, "War Is not the Answer." It, too, is completely meaningless. If the question is, "What is the square root of 8?" war is not the answer. But if the question is "How do you stop genocidal regimes?" war probably is the answer.
As concerns "Dissent is Patriotic," the fact is that dissent is neither patriotic nor unpatriotic. Sometimes it is one, sometimes the other, sometimes it has nothing to do with patriotism. The right to dissent is a basic American value. But that is not what the bumper sticker says.
Those who dissented when Alabama schools were racially integrated were not acting patriotically. Those who dissented against British rule in North America are considered our greatest patriots. Those who dissent against the doctrine that global warming caused by human beings is leading to worldwide catastrophe are courageous and probably right, but their dissent is neither patriotic nor unpatriotic.
The worst part of the liberal mantra, "Dissent is Patriotic," however, is not that is meaningless. It is that it is apparently meant solely to defend liberal and left dissent. Dissent against the right is inherently patriotic.
Dissent against the left is another matter. To Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and to the New York Times Paul Krugman and every other left-wing commentator I have read on the issue, those who dissent against the Obama/Democratic Party health care plan are not only not patriotic; they are Nazis, mobs, white racists (according to Krugman's non-sequitur thesis) and are always organized. They are activists sent by health insurance companies, the Republican Party, or by some other nefarious right-wing organization.To the left, it is almost inconceivable that normal "hardworking" Americans, even Democrats, might find the idea of an immense increase in government intrusion into our lives frightening.
I wonder how Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi would explain my physician, Dr. Michael Richman. He is a thoracic-cardio surgeon in Santa Monica, Calif. who is liberal, who voted for Barack Obama, and who has disdain for most health insurance companies. Yet, he came on my radio show last week to announce that he deeply regrets having voted for Obama in light of the damage the president's plan would do to American medicine.
Now, if Dr. Richman attends a Democratic congressman's town hall meeting to protest the congressman's support for the government taking over about 16 percent of the gross domestic product, will he, too, be dismissed as a neo-Nazi or health insurance company stooge?
The answer is, probably yes. In fact, that is exactly what happened -- and captured on local Atlanta TV -- in Georgia's 13th Congressional District this past weekend. A local physician, Dr. Brian Hill, a urologist, went to a town hall meeting organized by Democratic Congressman David Scott. When Dr. Hill asked in a calm voice why the Congressman would support a government health plan in light of the failing government health plan in Massachusetts, Rep. Scott began yelling at him about people from outside the district coming to "hijack this event" and that those at his town hall meeting raising the health care issue should have had "the decency" to call the congressman's office to set up a meeting to discuss the issue and not take over the town hall meeting.
But such people as Dr. Richman in California and Dr. Hill in Georgia don't exist in the Democratic Party's or in Paul Krugman's mind. Like most of the left since Marx, the American left today has created an image of the world to which reality is subservient. Left-wing theories define reality, not vice versa. And in that closed world, left-wing dissent is patriotic, while dissent against the left is fascistic at worst, or paid for by the greedy at best.